As you might imagine, we really don’t want to see it get beyond Stage 1 which is why we recommend regular dental checkups.
Tooth decay happens when acids wear away the tooth’s hard surface layer, the enamel. These acids are made by a sticky film that can build up called plaque. Plaque has germs that feed on sugary foods. The process of digesting these sugars makes acids that attack tooth surfaces.
Over time, tooth decay can cause holes in the tooth surface. These are called cavities. If left untreated, cavities can get bigger. They can even destroy the tooth.
Usually they go through 4 stages.
You may see a dull spot appear on the otherwise bright enamel of your tooth. That’s probably where acid is successfully attacking the enamel. Brushing and flossing regularly might prevent it from becoming a cavity.
If left untreated, the decay now becomes a cavity because it has successfully penetrated the enamel of your tooth. If you must have a cavity, this is the best stage to catch it and have it repaired because we can usually use a relatively small filling to solve the problem.
The decay has now reached the softer portions of the tooth. It is at this point that things can begin to move very rapidly toward compromising the whole tooth. Treatment may be more difficult.
It is at this stage you risk losing the tooth. And, such conditions an abscess are common. With regular dental checkups and good oral hygiene, you should never reach this stage.
For the most part you can avoid dental decay by brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and flossing between teeth. Toothpastes and mouthwash with fluoride can also help strengthen teeth and help fight tooth decay.
If you have any questions about how to prevent dental decay, please call us and we’d be happy to discuss them with you.